frank_davis (frank_davis) wrote,

Smoking Boosts Brain Power

H/T Det Fede Skelet on Facebook for this Google translation of a Danish article, Tobacco Increases Work Capacity, exploring the benefits of smoking tobacco. It's not a very good translation, so I'll try to summarize it:

Tobacco, according to the WHO [1], is a "harmful and unnecessary product". It has no benefits whatsoever. Antismoking campaigners have place all their emphasis on the negative aspects of smoking, ignoring all the positive aspects, which are that the brain works better when it gets nicotine. Nicotine makes its consumers focus better and think faster and concentrate longer. Studies have shown that nicotine makes the brain work 10-30% more efficiently in a number of areas.

In 2010 the US government released an analysis summarising the last 40 years of knowledge about the effects of nicotine and smoking on the brain. The study was led by Stephen Heishman: Meta-analysis of the acute effects of nicotine and smoking on human performance. Abstract: ( 3 ). Nicotine has a significant positive impact in the areas of motor skills, attention, focus, speed and memory. Heishman's team examined 256 published non-medicinal nicotine tests done since 1994, when they made a similar analysis, and selected 48 studies for their meta-analysis. Their analysis paints a picture of nicotine as an effective and fast acting drug, which improves the brain's performance in social work situations - a decidedly "social work-drug".

The positive effect on the brain may explain why many of history's greatest scientists have been passionate smokers - eg. Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, who both praised the tobacco effect on their scientific thinking. Equally some of the world's most creative footballer such as Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Dimitar Berbatov and many other players were avid smokers.

Cigarettes have also always been an indispensable part of soldiers' field rations, and remain so.

The 48 experiments included in Heishmans analysis consisted of several groups of volunteers who have completed a series of standardized computer tests: One half received nicotine, while control subjects received placebo. Nobody knew whom, who got what. With few exceptions, nicotine users did better in all tests, whether they were smokers or nonsmokers. This was especially true in the areas of attention, precision, focus, memory and speed - and to a lesser degree of motor skills:

The researchers also found other areas where nicotine users had significantly better outcomes - including motor skills, long-term memory, semantic memory, arithmetic, complex calculations & Decision attention.

Tobacco Harm researcher, Professor Brad Rodu from Louisiana University, says that Heishman's analysis is a breakthrough in understanding tobacco & nicotine effects. In his article "The Proven Positive Effects of Nicotine and Tobacco ( 10 ) on his blog, Tobacco Truth, he writes:

"It’s time to be honest with the 50 million Americans, and hundreds of millions around the world, who use tobacco. The benefits they get from tobacco are very real, not imaginary or just the periodic elimination of withdrawal," writes Rodu (original English).

Professor David Warburton of Reading University, in a double attempt experiment in 1994 first demonstrated that 100 "abstinent" smokers and 100 nonsmokers achieved similar results in three specific figures tests. In experiment No. 2 then he repeated the same three tests with smokers when they were divided into two groups - one was "abstinent" in 12 hours, while the second group had smoked one hour earlier:

Figure 1 - Warburton & Arnal, 1994: - The scale shows the number of correct answers, minute by minute. Participants smoked one puff per minute in the period between the dotted lines, from the 6th minute to 15th minute. The two top lines are the results for nicotine groups - the bottom two are from non-nicotine groups. Each group consisted of one abstinent group & one non-abstinent group.

Result: The number of correct answers rose in the two nicotine groups with approx. 30% from third cigarette puff. There was, however, no difference in responses between the "abstinent" and the non-abstinent participants. The two nicotine groups had also significantly 10-15% faster reaction time, (not shown in graph).

If nicotine actually does enhance performance, it may help to explain why the productivity of labor in the western world has decreased slightly each year since 1970s, as health campaigns have reduced the number of smokers. In Denmark, there has been an unexpected and inexplicable collapse in productivity in 2007 and 08 - just after the time when the state banned smoking in all Danish workplaces. ( 19 )

There's quite a lot more in the article, and 19 useful links appended.

Update: DFS has emailed with some corrections (shown above). He also appears to be working on a better translation of the original article. If I get a link address for it, I'll post it here.
Tags: tobacco+
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